Harry scampers into shacharit just after barchu, ten minutes late and trying to be inconspicuous. He hasn’t even been at Hogwarts two weeks, and already he’s lost points for Gryffindor for this particular reason, and he’s not eager to give Snape—who, if their first Potions classes and Gemara shiurim were of any indication, seems to have it out for him—an excuse to take any more.
(“It’s so unfair that they take points if we’re late for davening,” Ron had said in the Gryffindor Common Room. “I mean we won’t even count for a minyan until next year!”
“Almost two years for me,” Harry had agreed, glumly.
“Well,” Hermione Goldberg-Granger interrupted, as Harry was rapidly learning was a habit of hers. “None of us girls count for a minyan at all, and we’re all expected to get to davening in a timely manner. Or don’t you think that we should be allowed to be there?”
“Well, I don’t think they should dock points if you don't show up...” Ron had muttered, but thankfully Hermionie hadn’t noticed.)
Today, though, no one seems to notice Harry slip into the back of the men’s section of the Great Hall. Everyone is otherwise occupied, heads craned toward the mechitza, rather than toward Fifth Year Pesach Weisenbach—Ron’s older brother and today’s shaliach tzibur.
“Merlin’s peyos!” Harry hears Ron whisper to Simon Finnegan. “She’s going to cost Gryffindor all the points we have!”
“What’s going on?” asks Harry.
“It’s Goldberg-Granger.” Simon’s whisper is full of incredulous urgency. “She’s wearing tefillin and a tallis!”
Harry stands on his toes in an attempt to see over the mechitza, and just manages to get a glimpse of Hermione, who, sure enough, is cloaked in a blue and white prayer shawl, tzitzit brushing her ankles, and large tefillin on her arm and forehead.
“I mean, where did she even get those?” Ron demands, this time in something slightly louder than a whisper.
“Mr. Weisenbach.” Ron freezes when he hears Snape’s voice, silky and dangerous. The Professor hovers from where he too had been standing to peer over the mechitza and glare at Hermione, to where the three Gryffindor First Years are huddled. “As much as I agree with your assessment of your Housemate’s questionable decision, I must wonder whether you are incapable of davening with anything like the appropriate kavanah, and if so, perhaps I should to take a few points in order to aid you.”
“Sorry, Professor,” Ron mutters, before covering his eyes for shema.
As soon as they’ve finished the prayer service, and the Prefects have Wingardium Leviosa’d the mechitza away to replace it with the House Tables for breakfast, Snape, still wearing his tefillin and tallis, storms over to where Hermione sits carefully removing her own tefillin.
“I was davening, sir. And I must say that I quite enjoyed Professor Finklestein's leyning—”
“You know what I mean, you silly girl! Why would you desecrate the mitzvot of tefillin and tzitzit?!”
(“This is it,” moans Ron.)
“I haven’t desecrated the mitzvot at all, Professor.” Hermione speaks quickly, and Harry has the distinct impression that she has rehearsed this extensively in her head. “My Hebrew birthday is the twenty-seventh of Elul, which was, as you know, last Friday, right before the chag, and I turned twelve, so now I’m obligated in all the mitzvot—”
“Women are exempt from time-bound positive commandments.”
“Exempt, but not forbidden, Professor. Patur, not assur. Weren’t these mitzvot also given to me? Wasn’t I also present at Mount Sinai? And in fact,” Hermione pauses involuntarily to catch her breath. “The Gemara says in Eruvin—daf tzadi-vav, amud aleph, I believe—that Michal, the daughter of King Saul and the wife of King David, also laid tefillin and the Sages didn’t protest, so—”
“I’ve had quite enough of your impertinence, Miss Goldberg-Granger. Ten points from—”
“I do hope you weren’t planning on docking points because a student engaged in a halakhic debate, Professor Snape.” McGonagall interrupts, hand on her hip. “Or because she fulfilled a mitzvah.”
“Clearly, Miss Goldberg-Granger’s actions were distracting to the men. I don’t think the youngest Mr. Weisenbach davened one line of the Shmonah Esrei.”
(“I did,” insists Ron in a whisper.)
“Well,” McGonagall retorts. “Perhaps they shouldn’t have been looking over the mechitza in the first place.”
“I—Ah, Rav Dumbledore.” Snape waves to the Rosh Yeshiva as the man walks past. “Would you care to weigh in on this matter?”
“I’m afraid I must agree with Moriah, Simeon.” Rav Dumbledore turns to Hermione. “Very well-argued, Miss Goldberg-Granger! Ten points to Gryffindor!”
Hermione’s cheeks turn red, but her voice is firm. “Thank you, sir.”
Clearly disgruntled, Snape turns away without another word, tallis billowing behind him as he goes.
The following Monday—the next weekday that the whole school davens shacharit together—Harry once again stumbles late into the Great Hall, and once again, everyone is too fixated on something going on the other side of the mechitza to notice.
“What is it this time?” he whispers to Ron. “Hermione wearing tefillin and a tallis again?”
“Well, yeah,” responds Ron. “But that’s nothing! So is McGonagall!”
And sure enough, when Harry stands on his toes and glances into the women’s section, he sees Hermione and Professor McGonagall next to each other, both wearing prayer shawls and tefillin, both praying intently, both smiling.
As he pulls out his siddur, Harry can’t help but smile a bit too.